Jan 032021
 
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Leonard Williams, New York Giants (January 3, 2021)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 23 – DALLAS COWBOYS 19…
The New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Giants finished the 2020 regular-season with a 6-10 record (4-2 in the NFC East). If the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Washington Football Team on Sunday night, the Giants will win the NFC East and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs.

Leading 20-9 at the half, the Giants almost let this game slip away, including some gut-wrench moments late in the 4th quarter. But defensive lineman Leonard Williams dominated with 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 3 tackles for a loss, and one pass defense.

The Giants received the ball to start the game and impressively drove 78 yards in six plays to take a quick 6-0 lead (the extra point was missed). A mixture of passes from quarterback Daniel Jones and runs by running back Wayne Gallman set up a 23-yard end around by wide receiver Sterling Shepard that went for the score.

Dallas picked up two first downs on their initial drive and then were forced to punt after a 3rd-down sack by linebacker Blake Martinez. However, the Giants gave the ball right back when Gallman botched a handoff from Jones. The Cowboys recovered at the New York 27-yard line. The Giants defense held when Williams sacked quarterback Andy Dalton on 3rd-and-8 from the 14-yard line. Dallas kicked the 38-yard field goal to cut the score to 6-3.

For the next six consecutive drives (three by each team), the Giants and Cowboys struggled to move the ball. New York picked up three first downs and Dallas could not pick up one. All six of these possessions ended with punts.

Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Giants’ offense began to click into gear again. New York drove 65 yards in six plays with Jones finding Shepard for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Shepard also caught a 21-yard pass earlier on this possession. Giants 13 – Cowboys 3.

The Cowboys finally began to move the ball themselves, driving 44 yards in 10 plays to set up a 46-yard field goal. Giants 13 – Cowboys 6.

With 2:13 left on the clock before halftime, New York decided to remain aggressive. It took just four plays for the Giants to drive 75 yards, the two big gains being an 18-yard pass to Shepard, followed by a 38-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Dante Pettis. The Giants now led 20-6 with under a minute to play. Unfortunately, the defense allowed Dallas to gain 35 yards in 45 seconds, setting up a successful 57-yard field goal as time expired.

At the half, the Giants led 20-9.

The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out by the Cowboys to start the 3rd quarter. However, two plays later, on 2nd-and-10, a pass from Jones intended for tight Evan Engram bounced off of his hands and was intercepted at the Dallas 38-yard line. Worse, Cowboys’ momentum continued to surge as Dallas drove 62 yards in 10 plays to cut the score to 20-16. Running back Ezekiel Elliott scored from one yard out.

The Giants gained two first downs before an illegal crackback penalty called on Shepard pushed the Giants back, leading to a punt. The Cowboys then began a long, 13-play, 62-yard drive that was finally stopped by linebacker Kyler Fackrell’s 8-yard sack on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants’ 10-yard line. Nevertheless, the 36-yard field goal cut the score to the slimmest of margins early in the 4th quarter. Giants 20 – Cowboys 19.

After both teams exchanged punts, with another sack by Williams, the Giants put together a key 8-play, 48-yard possession that ended with a clutch 50-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. Shepard caught another 21-yard pass from Jones on this drive. Giants 23 – Cowboys 19 with six and a half minutes left to play.

Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Cowboys began a potential game-winning, marathon, 17-play possession that took over five minutes off of the clock. All looked lost when Dallas was able to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line. But Williams sacked Dalton for a 10-yard loss. Then on 3rd-and-goal from the 17-yard line, safety Xavier McKinney intercepted Dalton in the end zone with 1:15 left to play.

However, the game was not over and Gallman gave New York fans a huge scare when he fumbled on an 8-yard gain on 2nd-and-5. Gallman recovered the loose ball at the New York 39-yard line. The Giants then knelt on the ball to run out the clock.

Daniel Jones finished the game 17-of-25 for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His leading receiver was Shepard, who caught 8 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for a 23-yard touchdown). No other Giants had more than two catches. Gallman carried the ball 11 times for 65 yards.

Defensively, the Giants sacked Dalton six times: Williams (3), Martinez (1), Fackrell (1), and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (1). The defense was also credited with nine tackles for losses and six pass defenses. Linebackers Martinez and Tae Crowder were each credited with 11 tackles.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
P Ryan Santoso was activated from the Practice Squad for this game.

Inactive for the game were WR Golden Tate (calf), OT Jackson Barton, OL Kyle Murphy, DE R.J. McIntosh, CB Madre Harper, and P Ryan Santoso.

The Giants reported no injuries from the game.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
If the finish in first place, they will be the first six-win playoff team in NFL history.

The Giants ended a seven-game losing streak to Dallas. They had last defeated the Cowboys in December 2016.

The Giants won despite finishing 0-for-7 on 3rd-down conversion attempts. This is the first time the Giants won a game without converting a third down since the 1970 merger.

This was the fifth game this season in which the Giants did not allow a first half touchdown.

This was the first time in wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s 5-year pro career that he scored two times in a game.

The Giants finished the season with 40 sacks, their highest total since they had 47 in 2014. Leonard Williams led the team with 11.5 sacks, the most by a Giants’ player since Jason Pierre-Paul’s 14.5 in 2014.

Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson became the first Giants defensive player to begin his career with the Giants and start each of his first 64 games in the league since the NFL went to 16 games in 1978.

Kicker Graham Gano’s 50-yard field goal with 6:27 remaining in the 4th quarter was his 30th consecutive successful attempt, a franchise record. Gano made 31-of-32 attempts this season, a .9687 percentage that is the second highest in Giants history. In 2018, Aldrick Rosas made 32-of-33 attempts, a success rate of .9696. Gano kicked his fifth field goal this season of 50 or more yards, including four against the Cowboys. That is a franchise single-season record.

ROSTER MOVES…
On Saturday, the Giants activated linebacker Kyler Fackrell and cornerback Madre Harper from Injured Reserve. To make room for these two, the team placed fullback Eli Penny (illness) on Injured Reserve and cut quarterback Joe Webb.

The Giants placed Fackrell on Injured Reserve in early December 2020 with a calf injury. Up until that point, he had played in all 11 games, starting eight, and accruing 30 tackles, three sacks, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. The Giants signed Fackrell an unrestricted free agent from the Packers in March 2020.

Harper was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December with a knee injury after playing in nine games with no starts. He was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Raiders in late September 2020.

The sole fullback on the team for the past three seasons, Penny played in 14 games in 2020, rushing the ball six times for 15 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and catching two passes for 20 yards. The 6’2”, 234-pound Penny was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Cardinals after the 2016 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Penny off of the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in September 2018. He has played in 44 regular-season games for the Giants with four starts.

The Giants signed Joe Webb to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in December 2020. Webb was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He has spent time with the Vikings (2010-2013), Carolina Panthers (2014-2016), Buffalo Bills (2017), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Detroit Lions (2020).

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Monday.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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